Rep. John Sarbanes (D)
Maryland 3rd District
Baltimore, one of America’s major cities since the Revolution, has been transformed into one of America’s star cities. Its Inner Harbor redevelopment, with a spectacular, multilevel aquarium on the water, and its ballpark at Camden Yards are national models. The local cuisine—crab cakes and steamed crabs spiced in a certain way—are known well beyond the watershed of the Chesapeake Bay. The city “prefers diners and taverns tucked into venerable row houses to newer, trendier spots,” wrote The New York Times. The central city of Baltimore has had terrible urban problems—high crime, abandoned neighborhoods, poor schools—but the greater Baltimore area that has grown far beyond the city and county lines fares better and retains a distinctive character. This is a city built solidly on commerce, and one that has always maintained a relaxed air. To the south, Annapolis was laid out as a capital in 1694, with one circle planned for the Statehouse and one for the Church. The marble-halled Statehouse, built in 1772, is where the Continental Congress ratified the Treaty of Paris and is the oldest state capitol in continuous use. Annapolis is also the home of the U.S. Naval Academy, and the city’s waterfront, though gentrified, is a waterman’s port as well as a yachter’s.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 3rd Congressional District of Maryland consists of three oddly disjointed pieces of geography that extend from the locus of the Inner Harbor area. Its boundaries were designed by Democrats with politics in mind: The 3rd borders the majority-black 7th District on three sides and is itself bordered on three sides by the 2nd District, which redistricters made even more Democratic than the 3rd. One spoke extends northeast from black city neighborhoods into mostly white suburbs. Another extends north and west from the city to the Baltimore County seat of Towson and the heavily Jewish suburbs of Pikesville and Owings Mills, past the array of temples and synagogues on Park Heights Avenue in Baltimore city. The largest bloc of voters is in the crooked spoke that extends southwest, past the old row-house neighborhoods overlooking Fort McHenry and out past blue-collar Arbutus into Linthicum in Anne Arundel County and continuing to Annapolis. Just over one-third of the district population resides in Anne Arundel, including all of Annapolis; a quarter resides within Baltimore city, in such neighborhoods as Roland Park, and among the restaurants and bars of Little Italy and Fells Point. Another small slice of the 3rd consists of parts of Elkridge and Columbia in Howard County. Redistricting left the new 3rd District less Democratic than it had been; Bush’s percentage of the vote increased from 34% in 2000 to 45% in 2004. But the district remains safely Democratic.
Rep. John Sarbanes (D)
Elected: 2006, 2nd term.
Born: May 22, 1962, Baltimore .
Education: Princeton, B.A. 1984, Harvard, J.D. 1988.
Religion: Greek Orthodox.
Family: Married (Dina); 3 children.
Professional Career: Clerk, Judge Fred Motz, 1988; Practicing atty., 1988-2006; Asst., MD Schls. Superintendent, 1998-2006.
The congressman from the 3rd District is Democrat John Sarbanes, the son of the former longtime senator from Maryland. Sarbanes graduated from Princeton University and Harvard Law School, following the academic route taken by his dad, Democrat Paul Sarbanes, who retired in 2006 after more than 35 years in Congress. The younger Sarbanes returned to Baltimore to clerk for a federal District Court judge, and then joined the Venable law firm, where he chaired the health care practice and represented nonprofit hospitals and senior-living providers. He also spent seven years as special assistant to the Maryland superintendent of schools, serving as the liaison to the Baltimore schools.
|John Sarbanes (D)||203,711||(70%)||($799,506)|
|Thomas Harris (R)||87,971||(30%)|
|John Sarbanes (D)||86,598||(89%)|
|John Rea (D)||10,614||(11%)|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (64%)
Though his 2006 campaign was his first bid for public office, Sarbanes enjoyed a considerable advantage because of his name recognition. But the primary race was no cakewalk. Openings in the Maryland congressional delegation are rare, so when Democratic Rep. Ben Cardin announced he was giving up his seat to run for the Senate, eight candidates filed for the September primary. Contenders included veteran state Sen. Paula Hollinger and former Baltimore Health Commissioner Peter Beilenson, the son of former Democratic Rep. Anthony Beilenson of California. Sarbanes issued lengthy, detailed proposals on health care and education, which he called his top two legislative priorities. He supported repeal of the Bush tax cuts, calling them “fundamentally unfair and leading us down a road to financial disaster.” Beilenson emphasized his experience managing a large government budget. Hollinger was endorsed by the teachers association, and had been an active state lawmaker as chairwoman of the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee. Sarbanes, who had a small fundraising advantage, won the Democratic primary with 32% to 25% for runner-up Beilenson and 21% for Hollinger. Although his customarily low-profile father mostly stayed in the background, John Sarbanes acknowledged that he benefited from his name identification. He ran strongest in Anne Arundel County, which cast the most votes, trouncing Beilenson 40%-18%. Beilenson won more narrowly in Baltimore city, as did Hollinger in Baltimore County. Sarbanes finished second in each and also won the smaller vote in Howard County. Republican nominee John White, the founder and CEO of a marketing company, spent nearly a half-million dollars, most of it from his own pocket, but got little attention and lost the general election to Sarbanes, 64%-34%.
In the House, Sarbanes has had a solidly liberal voting record, though a bit to the center on economic issues. He became an advocate of cleaning up pollution in the Chesapeake Bay, and, with the thousands of federal workers in his district in mind, Sarbanes worked on a House-passed bill to allow qualified federal employees to telecommute at least 20 percent of their work hours. The House also passed his bill to rename a highway near Camden Yards “Cal Ripken Way,” in honor of the all-star shortstop/third baseman who played his entire career for the Baltimore Orioles. Focusing on education from his seat on the Education and Labor Committee, Sarbanes won approval of amendments to bolster instruction in the schools on protecting the environment and to give local school officials more-specific guidelines on the objectives of the Bush-era No Child Left Behind education law. When Albert Wynn, D-Md., announced his resignation from the House in March 2008, Sarbanes was among several Democrats who sought to replace him on the Energy and Commerce Committee. He didn’t get the seat, but set his marker for the future. Sarbanes was re-elected easily in 2008. In the 111th Congress, he finally attained his desired seat on the Energy and Commerce Committee, giving up posts on the Education and Labor Committee and the Oversight and Government Reform Committee.